Suit: Rampant sexual harassment at Rancho Santa Fe country club

RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. (KGTV) — The Fairbanks Ranch Country Club is an oasis along an otherwise remote stretch of road that winds away from Del Mar.

But for a number of female employees working inside its clubhouse, it was something much darker.

A new lawsuit filed by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges that around 2016, former manager Shant Karian sexually harassed a number of the workers, with financial consequences if they didn't play along.

For one of the workers, the suit says Karian repeatedly made sexual advances, hitting her buttocks, putting his arm around her waste and choking her, and repeatedly pursuing her sexually. He told another to wear a tighter blouse, and sent one text messages asking to see her backside, the suit says.

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Karian also allegedly told male customers one worker could give them lap dances.

The lawsuit says Karian made the schedule, and those who didn't comply were subject to lower pay rates, reduced hours, and threatened with termination.

Karian did not return a call seeking comment.

Annie Appel, a spokeswoman for club owner The Bay Club Company, says Fairbanks Ranch terminated Karian for cause after an internal investigation in October 2016 after an internal investigation.

"The Bay Club Company is aware of the EEOC’s allegations and will respond in a timely manner to the claims made in the complaint," Appel said. "TBCC is committed to a safe, harassment-free work environment for everyone."

Anna Park, an attorney for the EEOC, said sexual harassment in the workplace continues to be an issue nationwide.

"The power differential is really what is the problem in these harassment cases," she said. "This way the burden is on the employer to make sure the employees know where to go."

The lawsuit says Fairbanks Ranch didn't take action to help the employees, even deterring them from making complaints.

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